A TA shares her experience adjusting her teaching to meet the needs of her students
Over the course of this semester, I have dealt with the unprepared and unmotivated students, as well as the amazing goal-oriented students with a strong drive to succeed. Through their examples, I have adjusted my teaching.
First, I wanted the students to interact with each other. When I started, I tried telling the students the problem and then giving them the answer. It helped the students to feel competent because they understood all of the steps, but it eliminated their ability to think critically and share understanding. Then, I tried having them work on the problems independently, but I didn’t give enough time to ask questions to develop understanding. Towards the end of the semester, I moved to chunking my lessons. I gave 5 minutes to let the students work on a problem; then I would answer the problems and ask for any clarifying questions. I believe that students will reach their highest level of understanding if they are able to explain concepts to other students. By chunking my lessons, I was able to meet my need to explain the problem while also allowing the students to explain the question to each other.
Also, I struggled with communicating basic classroom policies to the students. Oddly enough, I thought that I read the syllabus clearly, but I neglected to ask the professor questions during team meetings. As a result, I would go into class with a limited understanding of classroom policies, allowing the students to manipulate classroom policies to meet their needs. One policy regarded make-up work. I was unsure about how to deal with students who missed class. I found myself allowing students to make-up work for ineligible situations, like family vacations that are not university approved. As I progressed through the semester, I found it beneficial to listen to the students and then let them know I needed some time to think about a classroom policy. If I was unsure, I would check with the professor or the syllabus before responding to questions about digital dictionaries, credit for late work, calculators for exams, and other issues. Teaching has been a great learning experience.